Mr. Monk on the Couch is the twelfth book in the Monk novel series written by Lee Goldberg, and was published in June of 2011.
The story is actually two intertwined plots: the first plot has Natalie Teeger helping Adrian Monk solve a series of related murders, while the second plot follows Natalie as she tries to uncover the past of a man who recently died of a heart attack and was using a phony ID.
After solving an on-the-spot murder, Monk and Natalie are invited by Captain Stottlemeyer to a hotel room where an unidentified man using the name "Jack Griffin" has died. Monk is able to determine that the man worked on fishing trawlers and is from Mexico. The man is found to have suffered a heart attack. Since no crime was committed, Monk believes there is nothing to investigate. However, Natalie notices that the ID being used is fake. With help from Adrian's brother Ambrose and his new assistant Yuki Nakamura (introduced in Mr. Monk on the Road, when she was working for Dub Clemens, a researcher, whom Adrian and Natalie met on a road trip; Dub is mentioned to have passed away), Natalie is able to trace a photo in the dead man's possession and eventually identifies him as Walter O'Quinn, who disappeared over twenty years earlier when he set out to sea and never came back, and has been presumed dead ever since. She finds that O'Quinn actually faked his death, hid in Mexico for years, and recently moved back to make amends with his family. While this is happening, Monk becomes fascinated with the four members of a crew of incredibly efficient crime scene cleaners: Jerry Yermo, Gene Tiflin, William Tong and Corinne Witt. They all admire Monk's abilities, and as the story progresses, Natalie even dates Jerry.
At the same time, though, trouble stirs up when Monk and Natalie are brought in by Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Amy Devlin to investigate the murder of Casey Grover, a thrift shop manager found dead in his office with his throat slit. Monk notices some interesting clues that suggest that the killer is professional - he broke into the store by picking open the lock in such a way that he left no traces of himself behind, yet curiously, instead of bringing his own knife, he picked up a carving knife from inside the store and left it behind. Monk also notices that the killer searched the sales receipts, and also used the computer to search for something. He later helps Jerry clean up the crime scene.
The following day, real estate appraiser Mark Costa is found dead in his Noe Valley house, not too far from the thrift shop, stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife. Monk is brought in and notices that the place has been thoroughly ransacked, and learns that the killer entered through an unlocked door. Stottlemeyer notes that the victim, Costa, also had a string of relationships with women he had appraised the houses of, and suspects that a jealous husband might have been involved. However, this all changes when Monk comes to realize that they have a serial killer on the loose and realizes that the thrift shop manager and Costa were killed by the same person - in both cases, the killer either picked the lock or entered through an unlocked door. Additionally, in both, the killer used a knife he found at the crime scene rather than bring his own. Lastly, both the thrift shop office and the house were searched, although in Costa's case, the search looks like it was improvised and was personal. Much of the ransacking extends only to the first two floors, but on the top floor, someone has slashed the couch in Costa's office. Natalie takes concern, since the killings are happening in her neighborhood.
Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Devlin go back to the police station, but have barely been there when they are called to another murder: the murder of sales associate Cheryl Strauss, found tortured, stabbed and asphyxiated on a coffee table in her house. Monk notices that the victim has a four-piece living room set that is missing a couch. He realizes that the couch ended up in Mark Costa's house, and concludes that the couch is the connection between the three murders.
Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer go back to Costa's house to retrieve the couch and prevent Jerry Yermo's cleanup crew from getting to it first. Unlike before, Jerry declines to allow Monk to help out, given the messiness of the work. They come to the conclusion that something was hidden inside the couch.
They are relieved when they catch a big break and manage to determine what the couch was being used to store. It turns out that Cheryl Strauss had an ex-boyfriend named Rico Ramirez, a criminal who was sent to prison five years earlier for beating up diamond merchants and stealing their stones. The diamonds from his scores were never found - now the police have determined that he hid them inside the couch. Monk learns that Ramirez was released two weeks prior to the murders as a result of the ACLU lawsuit currently pending against overcrowding and inhumane conditions in California prisons.
Monk concludes that after he was released, Ramirez tracked down his ex-girlfriend and found that she had sold the couch to the thrift shop. He went there, killed the manager, and found the records on the sale of the couch to Mark Costa. He tracked down and killed Costa. Here, what happened can take one of two theories as to why Ramirez killed Cheryl Strauss. Stottlemeyer theorizes the possibility that Ramirez realized he had just made a stupid mistake and killed her in a rage, while Devlin thinks that it is possible that Costa found the diamonds and hid them very safely in his house. Ramirez might have thought about this for a while, but he tortured and killed Cheryl because he thought she had screwed with him.
In short, they have technically closed the case, but Ramirez is still at large and might fence the diamonds. Stottlemeyer dismisses Monk's services. However, the next day, another murder happens in the same general neighborhood as all three murders composing Ramirez's murder spree. This time, the victim is a 52 year old BART engineer named Stuart Hewson, shot and killed in his apartment. Monk notices several interesting problems with the scene - for one thing, why did the killer shoot Hewson four times in the upper chest when a single shot to the head would have worked? Natalie suggests the possibility that Hewson interrupted a burglar, but Stottlemeyer notes that while that explains the bullet wounds, it doesn't explain why the killer used a silencer. Monk also notices several indentations for a tripod on the floor. What is most disturbing is the fact that Monk smells cleaning solvents of the types that Jerry's crime scene cleanup crew uses. Even more strange is the fact that Hewson's house is spotlessly clean, yet his truck is incredibly filthy, indicating that someone thoroughly cleaned the house after killing him.
Later that day, on a secondary visit to Stuart Hewson's house, Monk recovers a telescope stashed in the closet, and finds that the tripod matches the indentations on the floor. When he positions it, he realizes something shocking: from where Hewson's telescope is positioned, one can see right into Mark Costa's bedroom. He suddenly realizes with horror that Jerry Yermo's crime scene cleanup crew is responsible.
Here's What HappenedEdit
Analyzing Costa's bedroom from Hewson's apartment, Monk notices something strange: Jerry and his crew replaced the bloodstained floors in the bedroom, and also appear to have redone the walls, which had no blood on them at all after his death. Monk concludes what must have happened:
Costa did find Ramirez's diamonds in the couch, and he stashed them inside one of the walls in his bedroom. This explains why Ramirez never found them in the couch, and came to the assumption that Cheryl Strauss screwed with him, and hence the reason why he tortured and killed her. However, Jerry and his crew came to the conclusion that Costa hid the diamonds inside his house. They tore the place apart while they cleaned up the scene and recovered the diamonds. However, what they didn't know was that Stuart Hewson saw the cleaners recover the diamonds through his telescope. He had to be killed because he was blackmailing them. Jerry and all of the members of his crew were in on the scheme as well: this is explained by the fact that Hewson was shot four times (all four cleaners shot him once to equally spread the guilt among themselves).
Natalie is sent by Monk on a date with Jerry to see if he slips up. It fails when Jerry notices Monk, so they confront Corinne Witt and accuse her of the murder, but she denies it. With the press desperate for answers on the murder cases, Stottlemeyer gets a visit from the deputy chief. They give him a report on the status of the case, but Stottlemeyer reluctantly admits that there is no physical evidence to prove Ramirez responsible for killing Casey Grover, Mark Costa and Cheryl Strauss, although they have been able to trace the couch's movements, and nothing to prove the cleaners responsible for killing Stuart Hewson, although the phone records show that he called them a few hours before he died. The deputy chief reprimands Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Devlin and orders them to start their investigation from scratch.
Stottlemeyer slips Natalie background files on the crime scene cleaners under the pretense that it is a file on Walter O'Quinn. Natalie reads the files, and it becomes apparent that all four of the cleaners had financial motives for killing Stuart Hewson. Jerry Yermo currently is suffering from serious credit woes from overspending. Gene Tiflin is paying a steep mortgage on his house. William Tong has been forced to move in with his mother after he lost his teaching job. And Corinne Witt, who is studying to be a medical student, is in severe debt and living in a motel apartment, and facing possible eviction or expulsion.
Devlin goes to Natalie and proposes a scheme that she believes will work in bringing down the crime scene cleaners and also capture Rico Ramirez while they're at it.
For the first part, Natalie and Devlin disguise themselves as hookers and abduct William Tong from a bar, and tie him up in the hotel room that was formerly Walter O'Quinn's (and which Natalie is now using), and then steal his car keys and wallet. They then spread pig's blood over his car to make it look like Ramirez has butchered Tong. Devlin then has Natalie call Monk to the scene. They are able to coerce Corinne Witt into delivering a confession to the murder by making her think that Ramirez has cut Tong up into pieces and will be sending body parts to the other cleaners as a message. She confesses that Jerry was the mastermind of the plot, and that the idea that each of them would fire one shot into Hewson was Jerry's all along. Because of her confession, she is more likely to be able to plea-bargin her prison sentence. Stottlemeyer and Monk find out about the ruse used to make Corinne confess when they get the lab report on the blood. Thanks to Corinne's confession, the police are able to round up Jerry Yermo and Gene Tiflin, and pick up Tong later when he finally gets home, disoriented. They recover the same number of diamonds in each cleaner's house.
At this point, the second part of Devlin's plan begins. Devlin poses as Corinne Witt and tries to fence some of the diamonds. She goes to several fences and also to several pawnshops to spread the word, knowing that this will lure Ramirez out of hiding. She is not too happy when she finds that Stottlemeyer has put up plainclothes cops all around her. As Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer watch, Devlin returns to Corinne's apartment, and pretends to sleep. They are tipped off to Ramirez's presence when one of the technicians realizes that his computer reads the presence of two people in the room when only one is visible. At that point, Ramirez rises up out of the shadows and prepares to kill Devlin. But as he swings a knife at her, she suddenly overpowers him, just as a SWAT team raids the apartment and takes Ramirez into custody.
Stottlemeyer reprimands Devlin for her actions, and threatens to fire her the next time she tries performing a stunt as dangerous as the one she did to capture Ramirez. The story ends with Monk and Natalie tracking down Walter O'Quinn's surviving family.